As far as hobbies go, Jeff Ramsay, a Harbor Springs High School senior, has one of the more unique ones: He enjoys working with and collecting 3D printers. For those not aware, 3D printers use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create three-dimensional objects from a variety of materials like plastic. The sky is the limit with what can be printed, including everything from full-scale houses to intricate unmanned aerial vehicles.

When Jeff combined his interest in 3D printing technology with his interest in drones, the result was air-worthy. Earlier this year, Jeff created, designed and then printed his own drone, from inspiration he found in the Unmanned Vehicles Technology class offered at Harbor Springs High School, under teacher Rob LaPoint.

“I’ve always been technically minded and had an interest in how things work,” said Jeff. “I really enjoy electronics and working with my hands. In taking this class, I was interested in not just flying the drones but also getting professionally licensed, which is a big part of my interest. I plan to continue flying drones as a hobby and maybe making some extra money on the side.”

Jeff’s drone creation impressed his teacher as well. “Jeff is one of those students who takes initiative and demonstrates a real interest in learning how to fly drones and how they work,” said LaPoint. “When he told me he planned to print his own drone on one of his 3D printers, I wanted to support him.”

LaPoint provided Jeff with a few motors to help power the drone, but the rest was on Jeff to figure out. Using drone kits as a guide and CAD software, he created the individual pieces of the aircraft and secured them together to prepare for flight. Draft one, however, proved too small to take off. He rescaled the vehicle and the second time proved to have the correct dimensions. The drone also contains a first-person view camera and headset for aerial photography, operated by a headset Jeff assembled with LaPoint’s help.

This is Jeff’s first year in the class, having started in a one-hour segment in the fall and now in a two-hour block through the end of the year. After graduation, he plans to attend Michigan Technological University in Houghton to pursue his interests in mechanical engineering with plans to work in the automotive industry. 

Along with his interest and knowledge in mechanical operations, he’ll also bring with him his Federal Aviation Association (FAA) pilot’s license as a drone operator, opening up further potential career opportunities or side jobs.

“I firmly believe that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s important to not rely on one thing only, because you just don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Jeff. “You should have multiple options to make a living, and that also is true for hobbies and things that you enjoy outside of work.”

The Unmanned Aerial Technology class is a Career and Technical Education program offered by Char-Em Intermediate School District in partnership with Harbor Springs Public Schools. All CTE courses are open to any student, from any ISD district. Ask your high school counselor about how to enroll. Learn about all Char-Em ISD CTE courses online: www.charemisdcareetech.org.

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